For the first time since its foundation more than 70 years ago, the University of Arizona’s School of Journalism has its own broadcast studio and podcast lab.
The Adelaida and Barry Severson Family Broadcast-Podcast Studio officially opened on Sept. 29 and is being used by journalism students to further develop their broadcasting, podcasting, producing and reporting skills — all of which are key elements of the school’s specialized digital journalism track.
“It’s a very great opportunity for the School of Journalism,” Dr. Jessica Retis, the school’s director, said at the studio’s grand opening. “We are getting the opportunity to advance our broadcast and digital journalism programs [along with] media production, audio production and multimedia storytelling.”
Retis was joined at the ceremony by fellow speakers Michael Chihak, chair of the school’s Journalism Advisory Council, Journalism Student Council members Alexandra Mora-Medina and Leah Britton, Assistant Professor of Practice Liliana Soto and dozens of representatives of local news media, members of the larger Tucson community, and students and faculty from various university departments.
“We must adapt to the new needs of our profession, the industry and our communities,” Retis said. “Today marks the beginning of a new era. Students will keep receiving high quality education, adding the benefits of new technologies.”
The creation of the studio and podcast lab, both located on the third floor of the Louise Foucar Marshall Building, was made possible by a 2020 donation from Dr. Adelaida and Barry Severson, cofounders of Bushtex, Inc.
“What makes this gift truly extraordinary is the immense impact it will have on future generations of students,” Dr. Severson said. “This studio will be a sanctuary of creativity, a space where aspiring journalists, broadcasters and podcasters will find their voices, amplify diverse perspectives and ignite passionate conversations.”
Dr. Severson and her three sons, Lars, Swen, and Brock, attended the studio’s opening and shared speeches following a celebratory toast led by CEO and President of the University of Arizona Foundation, John-Paul Roczniak, and Dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Dr. Lori Poloni-Staudinger.
“As we embark on this new journey, let us remember that the true power of knowledge lies not within the walls of these studios but within each one of you,” Severson told students. “May you never lose sight of your responsibility to make a positive impact through the content you create and the stories you share. Let this studio become a beacon of truth, an inspiration for change, and a catalyst for progress.”
Preparing the next generation
In addition to the dozens of in-person attendees, three notable School of Journalism alumni — Patty Weiss Gelenberg ('71), Dan Hicks ('84) and Savannah Guthrie ('93) — sent in video messages from across the country expressing their excitement for the new studio.
Ciara Encinas (’18), a two-time Emmy award winning journalist working in San Diego, also highlighted the importance of an accessible studio space for training journalists.
“It shows that the school is evolving with the times, with the changing news environment [and] that they're welcoming in all types of journalism,” Encinas said. “I think it's going to build the next generation of journalists to be the best.”
Since the beginning of the three-year process of building the studio and podcast lab, the School of Journalism’s vision has been to provide a realistic newsroom setting to better prepare current students and to make the school an attractive place for aspiring journalists to study.
“The goal is for the students to train on technology that other newsrooms are already using so that their transition into the real world can be easier and to be more marketable,” Professor Liliana Soto, a seasoned bilingual multimedia journalist, said. “It would just be great for [students] to have a little bit of leverage to negotiate a salary.”
Soto met with several journalists currently working in the industry to determine which key features and technologies were needed for the studio, while Dr. Retis worked to secure additional funding to support the growth of the studio.
In addition to the Severson family’s generous donation, funding from the Provost Investment Fund and the University Center for Assessment, Teaching and Technology helped with construction costs, acquiring studio equipment, and hiring a full-time multimedia specialist to oversee studio operations.
The studio and lab are equipped with the same state-of-the-art features found in many professional newsrooms, including studio cameras, monitors, switchboards, lighting units, podcast-friendly microphones and a master control room.
“Having your own studio is definitely a game changer,” Leah Britton, a senior in the journalism program, said. “Not only are we going to get the experience without having a whole field trip across campus, but we'll also get to learn in real time within the studio with some of the best of the best equipment.”
The School of Journalism is now seeking funding for the next phase of expanding the studio, which involves opening an outdoor terrace that was part of the initial studio design for students to record live shots from.
“It’s an exciting moment for southern Arizona,” Soto said. “I think it opens a lot of possibilities for our students that for so long didn’t have access to something like this, students on the border and students in the Tucson area.”
The University of Arizona School of Journalism, which has been accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications since 1964, has now in this new studio space a key asset with resources all students can benefit from and which help ensure the school continues to be a valuable incubator of skilled journalists.
Coverage of the Severson Family Studio’s opening by Cat’s Eye News reporter Georgia Landeryou was featured on News 11 Yuma. Watch the segment here.